Why Employees Avoid Taking Breaks

Employee fatigue is a major obstacle to job performance. As such, researchers (Phan & Beck, 2023) conducted two separate studies to investigate the reasons why employees become fatigued at work and to describe what organizations can do to combat this issue. Specifically, this article focuses on the need for organizations to help employees detach from work through breaks, along with best practices to help employees detach from work while at home.  


The researchers surveyed employees from a variety of different organizations. Participants had to work 30 or more hours per week and take at least one break per day on average to participate in the study. Participants completed a survey that asked about their sleep quality, the “break climate” of their organization, and their break-taking behavior.

The results revealed two primary reasons why employees avoid breaks. First, even if employees want to detach, many avoid taking breaks at work when they feel they have too high of a workload and not enough time. Second, employees will avoid breaks when they work in an organization where taking breaks is discouraged by the leaders. In all, it appears that those who need to take breaks the most are those who are taking the fewest breaks throughout the day. 


The authors recommend three things that organizations should do to facilitate break-taking and reduce fatigue. First, organizations should build a culture where breaks are embraced and not looked down upon, this will create an environment where employees can feel comfortable taking breaks. Next, organizations can help their employees to feel fewer negative emotions surrounding their work by reducing stressors like unnecessary paperwork, improving ergonomics, or upgrading equipment. Lastly, organizations should seek to reduce communication between employees after hours (e.g., work-related email or phone calls). These after-hour communications may feel like additional job demands, which increases fatigue. Organizations that focus on these three things may stand to reduce employee fatigue and improve employee performance.


Phan, V., & Beck, J. W. (2022). Why do people (not) take breaks? an investigation of individuals’ reasons for taking and for not taking breaks at work. Journal of Business and Psychology, 38(2), 259–282.

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